Record Levels of Foodbank Provision

The Trussell Trust foodbank netwwork, of which Ealing Foodbank is a part, provided almost 1.2 million batches of three-day food and basic supplies in the past year. These are the highest figures on record. The Trust has linked increasing demand with the rollout of the universal credit benefits reform, in particular, with delays in benefits, increasing debt and a culture of insecure employment.

The food bank charity reports that more than 400,000 of the recipients were children. Official figures published last month show that most child poverty is now concentrated in working families. More than two-thirds of children classified as living in poverty are in families where at least one parent is working - the highest levels on record.food bank

Another report, by The All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger, warns too many children have to survive on crisps and energy drinks when school kitchens are closed. One group had to drop out of a summer football scheme because they had not eaten a meal in days, its report says.

According to the report, children at risk of holiday hunger include an estimated

  • one million growing up in poverty who receive free school meals during term time,
  • two million whose parents are on low wages but do not qualify for free school meals

For both groups, school holidays place extra burdens on family budgets in terms of food, fuel, activities and childcare. The report says this is sometimes "compounded" by a shortage of skills to cook and shop on a budget.It claims the loss of free school meals adds between £30 and £40 per week to parents' outgoings for one child. Parents working on zero-hours contracts were said to be particularly vulnerable to the higher costs of childcare.

Evidence during the two-month long inquiry to the group, included children reported to have vomited from lack of food, while others were being fed flavoured water or cereal as their parents could not afford proper meals for them.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/education-39697216 and http://www.bbc.com/news/education-39704993

Fairtrade Bananas - Do they make a difference?

Head down to your local supermarket and it is getting hard to avoid buying a banana that has not been certified as in some way sustainable. By rough estimates, in the UK we each gobble up more than 70 certified bananas every year.But here’s the contradiction: the UK may be the biggest market in the world for Fairtrade, organic and other certified bananas but it still has one of the lowest retail prices in the northern hemisphere.

Despite this progress, the industry was still one reliant on a migrant workforce paid poverty wages, living in slums and with no legal status. Most of the workers get 250 to 300 pesos a day when they work (about £4). 'It is barely enough to eat,' a group of young men tell us. 'It allows us one meal a day of beans and rice but is not enough to rent a house or look after a family.'

According to the Fairtrade Foundation the premium consumers pay for Fairtrade bananas is, in some cases, being used to help migrants get passports and working visas, however, Emmantel says he does not know what the premium gets spent on. He and other migrants would like to have access to a healthcare centre to deal with work injuries and for use by their families.

The Fairtrade Foundation says calls for using the Fairtrade premium to subsidise migrant workers' wages may undermine the responsibility of farm owners and employers to tackle the 'living wage' issue. It points the blame, in part, at the continual use of bananas in price wars between supermarkets, saying it has devalued the fruit in the eyes of the consumer and left producers with low returns, even in the Fairtrade sector, which has to remain competitive against conventional alternatives.

Fairtrade provides a shield that farmers can use to defend themselves from some of the consequences of these price wars. They earn a guaranteed Fairtrade Minimum Price plus an additional social premium, which they invest in their farms and their communities. This has brought real benefits: farmers have improved the efficiency and productivity of their farms while also investing in health centres, better housing and education - but not enough: trade union groups in the Dominican Republic say Fairtrade standards do not do enough to help migrant workers.

'There is no doubt that they are improving international trade but it isn't helping migrant workers to earn a fair salary,' says Luciano Robles, from the Trade Union Autonomous Federation (CASC). 'International standards need to be adapted to local situations.'

What's more, in an effort to tackle criticism of its treatment of illegal workers, the Dominican Republic government is now planning to force many of these migrants underpinning the banana industry to leave the country.

The Co-op, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose already stock only Fairtrade or organic bananas, while Lidl joined Asda this week in limiting themselves to bananas certified by the NGO Rainforest Alliance. Tesco could follow suit soon.

The real problem is not simply whether they are Fairtrade, but whether the retail cost of the banana is enough to be able to make a difference, and if this can be translated into responsibility for migrant welfare.

Adapted from The Guardian, full articles here and here


Caritas Bakhita House is open!


We are delighted to annouce that Caritas Bakhita House is now open!Caritas Bakhita House is a refuge for women escaping human trafficking and modern slavery. The house provides a safe space for traumatised and vulnerable women to begin the process of recovery and rehabilitation.

Pope Francis has described human trafficking as a 'crime against humanity', and Cardinal Nichols has called for stronger law enforcement and greater awareness of trafficking and modern slavery. In response to these calls to action, at Caritas Westminster we have formed partnerships with the Congregation of Adoratrices and the Metropolitan Police. These unique partnerships allow us to contribute to the identification and prosecution of perpetrators of human trafficking, whilst retaining the care and support of women at the heart of everything we do.

Karen Anstiss, the Service Manager at Caritas Bakhita House, says:

'Now Caritas Bakhita House is open, our team can start to make a difference to some of the most vulnerable people in our society. These women suffer unimaginable atrocities, all the while hidden from public view and unable to access help. Bakhita House will help women on their journey to rebuilding their lives.' 

If you would like to volunteer with Bakhita House, or would like more information, please contact us.


Spot the Signs of Trafficking


What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is modern day slavery. It’s serious organised crime and it’s big business. Criminals can only profit from the sale of drugs and guns once but they can sell a victim’s services again and again. The easiest way to understand human trafficking is to break it down into three simple parts.

    The Act - WHAT is done e.g. recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons.

    The Means - HOW it is done e.g. threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or position of vulnerability, giving or receiving of payments and benefits used to control a person.

    The Purpose - WHY it is done – to exploit victims e.g. in prostitution, other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery, servitude or removal of organs from a person. (Where a victim is a child, only ‘act’ and ‘purpose’ need to occur for human trafficking to exist.)

    Statistics: children as young as three have been trafficked into the UK for sexual exploitation.(ECPAT 2009). During 2003 there were an estimated 4,000 victims of trafficking for prostitution in the UK at any given time.(Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights )

    Watch the video here

    Facts about Human Trafficking

    There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today. Much more than at any time in history. Globally, the average cost of a slave is $90.

    99% of slaves are not rescued.mAccording to some estimates, approximately 80% of trafficking involves sexual exploitation, and 19% involves labour exploitation. More than 70% of people trafficked are female and half are children.

    Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry (behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking). It reportedly generates a profit of $32 billion every year. Of that number, $15.5 billion is made in industrialized countries.

CAFOD Syrian appeal raises £2 million but fast aid still needed

Thanks to your generous donations to our Syria crisis appeal over the last six months, we have supported thousands of people whose lives have been torn apart by the war. Our partners in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have provided: Food, Shelter, Healthcare, Education, Relief supplies (including mattresses, blankets, cooking equipment and clothes) With support from CAFOD and other Catholic agencies, they have delivered aid to more than 295,000 people. caritas

CAFOD welcomes yesterday’s UN statement urging all those involved in the conflict in Syria to allow aid to reach civilians – but warns that time is running out for those most in need. Millions of Syrian civilians live under siege-like conditions, trapped in pockets without access to food, water, medical care and protection from violence. Half of those affected are children who are at particular risk of hunger and sickness with the harsh winter months quickly approaching.

Prayer for peace in Syria

O God of peace, who are peace itself
and whom a spirit of discord cannot grasp,
nor a violent mind receive,
grant that those who are one in heart
may persevere in what is good
and that those in conflict
may forget evil and so be healed.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
St John Damascene, pray for us.

Please support our Syria Crisis appeal>>


Progress on Climate Change : Grants, not Loans

ClimateChangeWhilst the outcome of the UN climate talks in Durban last December was disastrous for climate justice, the UK’s latest announcement on climate finance has finally brought some positive news. The government has finally announced it will grant £10 million to the UN Adaptation Fund, the fairest international fund for climate change. WDM and Jubilee Debt Campaign campaigners have put a huge amount of pressure on the UK government to do this.

The government has also announced that it will give funds as grants instead of loans to enable developing to countries deal with the impacts of climate changeThis is a big change from its previous policy and will help prevent further unjust debt in the name of climate change. 

The majority of the UK’s allocated funds will still go through the World Bank’s adaptation fund which finances climate-change adaptation projects in developing countries but without adequately ensuring their participation, without much needed accountability mechanisms, and without promoting the wider environmental and development benefits and sustainable transformations. Funds to help developing countries make the transition to low carbon technology will still be given as loans. 

Campaigners like you have played an important role in this.    Thank you all for your support and energy and let’s hope our continued pressure means the government’s approach continues to shift in 2012.

Source: WDM Campaign Update

Assisted Dying Bill

Was debated on the 11th September 2015 and defeated in the House of Commons by a majority of 73%m mostly on account of the lack of safeguards that the Bill contained, to protect the vulnerable.

CAFOD's Expensive New Building: The Facts

Reply from Hannah Caldwell,CAFOD Supporter Relations Assistant to a personal emai asking how CAFOD can justify the expense of their new building against their stated aim of getting as much help to the poor as possible.

cafodbuildingDear X, Thanks very much for your email regarding CAFOD’s new premises.

We have now been based at Romero House, 55 Westminster Bridge Road, adjacent to St Georges Cathedral since May 2010. CAFOD had been in its offices in Brixton for 28 years. When we moved there in 1982 there were 26 staff and at the time it was hoped that the building in Brixton would meet medium term future needs, which it has done.

As you know CAFOD has grown significantly. When we left there we had a staff count of approximately 243 and the old buildings were becoming difficult and expensive to maintain. CAFOD’s investment in a new building ensured that we could continue to be efficient and economical well into the future. It would not have been as cost effective to rent. Owning the new building meant that we did not have to spend money on rent. We have the building as an investment which could be sold if necessary.

The new building cost £11.5m. The sale of the existing offices has raised £4.5m and is expected to eventually total over £5 million towards this. If CAFOD had rented a building, this would have been an on-going cost of approximately £1 million a year. As we believed it would be inappropriate to appeal for funds for the new building from supporters, CAFOD’s Trustees agreed that the remaining cost of the building after sale of the old buildings was to be financed through CAFOD’s contingency fund that was held in our bank. Essentially we have converted some of our cash assets into assets in the shape of bricks and mortar. We did not divert any future donations or cut any future funding from our work.

This investment has provided us with a 125 year lease giving us a secure base for the future of our international work. The move has provided CAFOD with rent free accommodation for the foreseeable future. To save costs we share the Amigo Hall and meeting rooms with St Georges Cathedral in Southwark. Our old buildings were not fit for purpose and to spend money constantly repairing and renovating was not justifiable. The main part of Brixton the site was purchased by Stockwell Primary school. As the cost of refurbishing the existing building was too high they have demolished the CAFOD building. The school now is constructing a new extension using the land created by the purchase of the CAFOD site. Our old buildings were also increasingly inefficient in terms of use of heating and air conditioning.

The new building has been designed to be as environmentally sound as possible within our budget. BREEAM is the world's most widely used environmental assessment method for buildings, and CAFOD’s building has been rated as ‘excellent’, the highest possible grade. The new building will give us a real opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint and be better stewards of resources through more efficient use of space. The ‘credit crunch’ has not affected CAFOD’s move to the new building as we did not borrow any money and we agreed a fixed-price cost for the construction of the building, which did not change regardless of the financial climate.

Should the UK recession dramatically affect CAFOD’s income in the future, then we have the option to recover some of our income through renting out the extra space that our new building has provided. We did look at several possibilities but were unable to locate a suitable and affordable building to buy. Our calculations showed that the most cost effective option was to build. Additionally, moving to the Southwark Cathedral site meant that we were able to reinvest in the Catholic community.

I hope that you appreciate the reasons behind why we had to move. The old situation was far from ideal; having staff operating from three different sites. One of those was a listed building and meant we are unable to make best use of the space. In addition to increased costs of maintaining the old buildings; a new roof would have been necessary if we had stayed. In the same way that those who made the decisions to move to the Brixton site 29 years ago looked ahead and invested accordingly; we have invested in a resource for CAFOD to benefit from for at least another 30 years.

We believe the new building has helped CAFOD become even more efficient, reduced our environmental impact and enabled us to continue our work to overcome poverty and injustice. We feel this fits in with the LiveSimply challenge to live simply, sustainably, and in solidarity with the poor. I hope this information goes some way to addressing your concerns. If you have any further questions please feel free to get back in touch. Many thanks for your support of CAFOD, it is truly appreciated and makes a real difference to improving the lives of those living in poverty in developing countries. ;